M is for Messy

I have a hard time letting my kids do messy fun stuff.  But I am determined to get better at it.  It’s so good for them, and for me too!  So much learning and discovery take place while splattering paint or forming dough, and their creativity can really shine when they aren’t as restricted.  Plus, when you allow kids to make a mess, you have a built-in opportunity to teach them to clean up.  When you’re so worried about keeping everything clean all the time, besides being really stifling, you miss out on that practice.

I think this translates to life itself.  Like I said in my last post, too much focus on prevention robs you of making a habit of apologizing, fixing, adjusting, changing, forgiving, and trying again.

Anyway, back to messiness with the kids, here are three more reasons to go for it:

  1. They’re going to be messy anyway.
  2. A fun mess is better than a regular mess.
  3. Doing something messy with your kids can force you to be engaged with them – another thing I’m trying to improve.

I try to do a letter of the week with my two littles and this week we’re on M.  We’ve skipped a few several weeks & I think we might have even done M already, but hey, the 2- and 3-year-old certainly aren’t keeping track.  Today we got out a box of mac & cheese, glued some noodles in the shape of an M, and saved the rest for lunch.


Miles drew that M by himself!


That didn’t take very long, so Miles brought up the idea of playing with play doh.  He’s been asking for days, but it’s just one of those things that I struggle with.  I know some people wouldn’t even consider it a “messy” thing, but those people might not have kids like mine… or maybe they have hardwood floors, or an abundance of butcher paper or cleaning skills.  We have carpet, and these guys never just keep it on the table.  Once somebody steps on it it’s so hard to get out, and I have a cute new rug from Christmas that I don’t want ruined already…  but I’m working on this, so I said yes.  Then I had the brilliant (but kind of obvious) idea of taking the fun into the kitchen – you know, where there’s tile on the floor.  They used the bench for their surface, which is just the right height anyway, and it was perfect because I got to clean up the dishes and make lunch while still watching and interacting with them.  Happy day!

We had so much fun.  I think I might need to invest in some more cool play doh accessories.  Any recommendations?

When it was time to clean up, I let them be a part of that too.



Like I said, I’m not very good at this, but it’s something I’ve been working on, so for anyone out there in the same boat, here are two things I’ve learned:

The first is to know yourself and your limits.  I can’t tell you how many times I, in the Fun Mom Spirit, have gotten out some crafty painty messy project for the kids only to lose it half-way through and yank back on the reigns of my poor shocked children – “This was your idea, Mom.”  Yep.  If you just can’t handle something in particular, or it’s a bad time of day, or month, just don’t go there.  Set a timer if you know how long you’re good for, and clue the kids in.  Or make a deal with them – “If we get all the laundry put away first, then we can make papier-mâché* lizards” – or whatever.

The second thing I’ve learned is to get into the mess yourself!  I must not have gotten enough sensory play when I was a kid, or maybe you can never get enough, because I tend to enjoy it just as much or more than my kids do.  And when you have a good time, it makes the inevitable clean-up less painful.

Learn Play Imagine has some more great tips here, along with an endless supply of cool things to do with your kidlets.

*Yes, I had to Google it to get the accents right.  I feel a little presumptuous typing it all proper like that, but there’s too much French in me** to just leave it wrong.

**I am not even a little bit French.  I just always wished I were.


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